Local Shoppers Gain New Tool with Google Products

Add one more name to the list of retailers, companies and products vying for your attention this holiday season: Google. The online search giant is placing a bet that consumers will continue to engage in shopping 2.0: turning to the Web for shopping deals and steals before heading to their local mall to cash in.

Users searching for a product on the site’s product-shopping pages will now be able to see not just where the product can be found online, but in what local stores the item can be found in stock, along with a map and other store information, such as phone numbers and addresses.

Google has partnered with more than 70 major retailers, from Pottery Barn to Best Buy, in hopes of gaining their share of the more than $900 billion holiday shopping market. The new data is available in search under the “nearby stores” link.

The added function is just one in a series of changes the site is launching this week, all designed to more closely integrate online (e-commerce) with offline (“brick-and-mortar” stores) holiday shopping.

Google’s bet is based on research that consumers are turning more and more to the “new space in between” online and offline shopping.

The company cited a recent study by Forrester that found 93 percent of retail purchases today happen in a store, but more than 46 percent of those in-store purchases are influenced by online research.

“All of this got our team thinking about how we could help further bridge the gap between online and offline shopping,” explained Sameer Samat, Google’s director of product management. “This week, we’re introducing several new features to Product Searchthat start doing just that.”

To simulate the “offline” experience of browsing in a store, Google will also add features like “popular products” and “aisles,” in which similar and related products to the one searched for are displayed. Those features will be rolled out in “coming weeks.”

The search engine currently indexes more than 1 billion products from 200,000 merchants.

In addition, Google is releasing “Google Shopper 1.3,” enhancements to its popular app for Android phones. The new version includes more search filters, voice search in addition to text, and the “rapid continuous barcode scanning” feature that allows users to search availability of items through photos of the items and of their barcodes.

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